ETSO Director Richard Lee Trades the Stage for the Classroom

In the orchestra classroom at Boulter Middle School, impressive sounds from cellos, violins, and other instruments ring out as students practice their musical pieces. Another sound in the room comes from their passionate, witty new orchestra teacher, and famed East Texas Symphony Orchestra (ETSO) Music Director, Richard Lee.

“We are thrilled to have Mr. Lee join our Tyler ISD family as the new orchestra teacher at Boulter Middle School,” Tyler ISD Visual and Performing Arts Director Sandy Newton said. “This is an incredible opportunity for Boulter students to learn from an accomplished musician of Mr. Lee’s caliber.”

When the pandemic caused the ETSO to postpone its performance calendar for the upcoming season, Mr. Lee saw the opportunity to achieve his and the ETSO’s goal to become more involved in Tyler ISD. The ETSO already partners with the District to enrich the performance arts program by providing musical experiences and opportunities for Tyler ISD students, but Lee knew they could do more.

“COVID has forced us all to rethink things,” Lee said. “With the postponement of ETSO performances and events, we felt this was the perfect time to get more involved. So, I gave Mrs. Newton a call and basically said ‘where do you need me?’ The opportunity she suggested was here at Boulter Middle School.”

Teaching in a middle school classroom is not new territory for Lee. Before directing professional orchestras for the last twenty years, he taught middle school orchestra in Canada for five years. “Teaching is always difficult, but really great at the same time,” he said. “I didn’t know what to expect here at Boulter, but the students and facilities are really great. Boulter has high standards for achieving student success and it shows because students are listening, well behaved, and engaged.”

Boulter seventh grader Evelyn Solis says she enjoys Mr. Lee’s class because he not only teaches them proper mechanics such as how to hold and play the instruments, but he makes learning to play them fun. “He teaches in a funny, but serious, way,” Solis said. “He makes us laugh and is really patient.”

Although impressed with the progress of the 20 sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students currently in the program, Lee see is excited for what the future holds in the days ahead.

“My goal is to bring all of my students up to a high level so that if they choose to continue in orchestra after middle school, they are prepared to do so,” Lee said. “Again, I can’t say enough about how good these students are and I am enjoying helping to build the program into something really great.”

For more information, contact Jennifer Hines at 903-262-1064.